Understanding the Gravity of Food Waste
Hunger If current global consumption and production patterns continue, by 2050 we will need three planets to sustain our current lifestyles.
Particularly with this growing population in mind, it is imperative we re-think the current state of food consumption and waste.
This is the cause at the heart of United Nations World Environment Day 2015: Seven Billion Dreams. One Planet. Consume with Care. Celebrated on June 5th since 1972, this day serves as a reminder that individual actions can lead to collective power and exponential impact.
Food waste poses a huge threat to our economies and to the planet. In the United States alone, approximately 60 million metric tons of food are wasted every year—an estimated value of $162 billion. Globally, one-third of all of the food produced is never consumed, about 1.3 billion metric tons, with the total cost of that waste reaching almost $400 billion a year, according to a report by Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP).
"Food waste needs to be consciously averted in the first place to conserve the environment today—and to plant the seeds for better quality of life in the future."
Food waste carries with it social and economic costs, but it also presents significant environmental consequences. 7 percent of all global greenhouse gas emissions (3.3 billion metric tons of CO2 equivalent) are due to food waste. If wasted food were a country, it would be the third-largest emitter of greenhouse gases—after the U.S. and China.
The threat of continuing
"In the next few years, food consumption is expected to increase by around 30 percent due to population growth,” says Achim Steiner, UN Under-Secretary-General and Executive Director of the UN Environment Programme. “While the effects of climate change are expected to reduce agricultural yields by up to five percent in some areas.
“We need to take immediate action to save food, improve livelihoods and conserve the environment. Solutions and opportunities exist. But we need to seize the moment and create the needed momentum.”
To bring about the vision of a truly sustainable world, the future we want, we need to transform the way we produce and consume our natural resources. National efforts have begun to address the issue of food waste through recycling, donating and composting. Retailers are working to clarify food expiration dates. And the hospitality industry is offering smaller portions.
These initiatives are all a step in the right direction. But food waste needs to be consciously averted in the first place to conserve the environment today—and to plant the seeds for better quality of life in the future.